This article was written by Angela Zwaagstra and published on her blog site, http://www.fourlittlezs.com. I was so shocked to learn about the decision by the East Providence Board of Education that I decided to re-post her article on my site (with Angela's permission, of course). As a former Board of Education teacher, I hope this decision is reversed. Kids need a break from the classroom and phys-ed is NOT a substitute for "free" play! School is almost back in session in East Providence, but the playground will not be teaming with happy excited children. This is because the elementary schools in this division have eliminated recess: replacing it instead with a beefed-up physical education program. So instead of running, jumping, and creative play, students will be lined up and organised into teams to play well supervised games. Imagine if they did this in a work place, taking away coffee breaks. Instead of a chance to decompress, to grab a coffee and chat, employees would be forced to do aerobic calisthenics or a quick game of dodge ball, all in the interest of healthier employees. There would be a huge outcry from employees, with most, if not all calling their union rep or looking for new employment. To a child, recess is even more important than the sacred coffee break. It is a only time during the day they can use their “outdoor voice.” All day they are being herded into class, told to be quiet, and to concentrate on their work. Recess is the time that they use to burn off pent up energy, noise, and frustration, to meet up with friends, and get away from rules and rigor of class. Taking it away, even if they are replacing it with an active phys-ed class, is cruel and lacks understanding and respect of the young learner. Playtime, real play time, in elementary students improves school performance, both behavioural and academical. The Journal of American Pediatrics reported in 2009 that fifteen minutes of free time play made a huge difference in the ability of children to sit and concentrate on school work. The fresh air and vitamin D from sunlight improve biological processes, the lack of structure gives children a chance to unwind. The respite of recess let the kids focus on school during the rest of the day. Socially, children need recess too. The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists points out that recess is the time where students form close relationships with their peers. It is also the time that they are forced to problem solve, communicate and navigate social interactions without adult intervention. Finally it is a chance to be independent and to express themselves through imaginative play. Taking away recess for a structured phys-ed class circumvents all of these benefits. Physically, true free play is better than a structured phys-ed class. The brain in more active during periods high physical activity: blood capacity to the brain is increased during physical activity, optimising its performance. But what is more, recess sends the message that physical activity is part of the normal course of the day. By forcing all activity to be regulated and confined to supervised classes, we are telling kids they shouldn’t be active on their own, that they should only run during soccer practise. A free-time recess gets kids moving and shows them that physical activity is a part of life, not just a part of organised sports. Imagine how different our obesity crisis would be if kids ran around after school instead of only during scheduled sports practice! Recess is essential to the well being of students. Everyone needs a break, esspecially kids. Children are not robots that can sit all day with minimal stimulation. They need to run, play, and be free from the classroom, even if only for fifteen periods of time.
Share this post